Mario is one of the most beloved and widely-recognized video game characters that has ever been created. Anyone who has ever played a video game has almost certainly played one of the entries in the various Mario franchises. Super Mario Bros. was one of the earliest franchises for Mario, released on the Nintendo Entertainment System. What even diehard Mario fans don’t know, however, is that there are two separate versions of the second game in this franchise!
The Mario game that was too difficult for the world
Super Mario Bros. was created largely by industry legend Shigeru Miyamoto. However, when it came time to develop the second Super Mario Bros. game, Miyamoto was rather busy developing another legendary game which would eventually spawn its own massive franchise: The Legend of Zelda. So Nintendo decided to tap another spectacular video game developer, Takashi Tezuka.
Tezuka followed a relatively simple premise in developing the second Super Mario Bros. game: assume the player had mastered everything the first game had to offer and make it much, much more difficult. While many of the core game mechanics remained unchanged in Super Mario Bros. 2, the change in difficulty was so immense that American consumers were put off by it. In fact, some of the worst offenders in terms of extreme difficulty were drawn from Vs. Super Mario Bros., a Mario arcade game notorious for being unbearably difficult in order to make its players spend more money.
This resulted in the game not being produced outside of JapanYume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic at the time. In later years, it would eventually be released as Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, but at the time, only Japanese fans got to attempt the incredibly difficult challenge that was Super Mario Bros. 2.
Super Mario Bros. 2: Doki Doki
So, if the nightmarishly difficult version of Super Mario Bros. 2 didn’t come to the United States until much later, what did we play as the second installment in the Super Mario Bros. franchise? Well, after Nintendo realized that the original version was too hard to do well commercially, they decided to take another popular game which had similar mechanics, called Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic, modify it to more closely resemble a Mario game, and release that internationally as Super Mario Bros. 2.
Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic was originally created to tie into Japan’s Yume Kōjō 87 festival, a national carnival. It featured four mascots: Imajin, Lina, Mama, and Papa (which would become Toad, Princess Toadstool, Mario, and Luigi.) Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic originally took place in an Arabian setting, but Nintendo gave it a Mushroom Kingdom makeover before releasing it as Super Mario Bros. 2. They also had to introduce a few Mario staples such as being able to run and the ever-present turtle shells, but overall the transition from Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic to Super Mario Bros. 2 was a simple one.
Truly a Mario game?
Some diehard fans of the plumber in the red overalls actually refuse to acknowledge Super Mario Bros. 2 as a Mario game. They state that since it wasn’t created as a Mario game from the very beginning, it should not be considered as such. Such fans argue that the only true successor to Super Mario Bros. is Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels.
However, Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic played a large part in shaping all the Mario games that followed. Some of the most iconic Mario characters were part of Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic, including Birdo, Bob-ombs, and Shy Guys! Super Mario Bros. 2 was also the first Mario game that made Mario’s brother Luigi taller than him and was the first to include the Princess among playable characters (making her one of the few female playable characters in video games at the time).